Creating a Support System That Will Change Your Life
Chaos: "complete confusion" and "the formless void before the creation of the universe."
This definition describes how I felt about my life several months ago. Sure, I was busy with my career, going to school and church activities, but inside I felt directionless and frustrated. I was spinning my wheels. I ran from work to school, back to work, to meetings, Bible study, and then back home just in time to go to bed and wake up several hours later to do it all over again (even though it never felt like I slept longer than about 5 minutes). Now don't get me wrong, everything I am doing is good, worthwhile and will benefit me at some point in the future. But all of my activities and the frenzied pace in which I was trying to accomplish them made my body, mind, soul & relationships suffer. And let's not even talk about goals! I didn't have the energy or time to even write them down, let alone begin working on them.
One day, I decided that enough was enough. Not only did I decide that I didn't want to live this way any longer, but that God didn't want me to live this way. His best for me is that I live in prosperity--physically, emotionally, spiritually, as well as financially (3 John 3:2). So I prayed and asked God to tell me what I should do to get through this difficult time and to regain the focus I once possessed. In addition to drawing me back to Himself, God showed me that some of the answers that I sought would lie in people that are currently in my life or that He would send specifically to help me. He showed me that I was trying to accomplish too much by myself and that I had to reach out to others for guidance, assistance and some motivation. Theologian John Donne said that "No man is an island"?and so far I had purchased a one-way ticket to Fantasy Island. But on this particular day, I packed my bags and decided to say goodbye to my imaginary world where lack of proper rest and sleep (along with a grande White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks) seemingly fueled creativity. I said goodbye to isolation, desolation and degradation?and hello to a new island and a new way of life. God inspired me to create a [Godly] support system.
I sat down and just really took a long, hard look at the current "state of my union"-with God, myself and others -- Five things were immediately apparent:
Once I determined what I felt like needed to happen, I begin to think of the people, or types of people, that could help me grow in all of those areas, which included:
The first call I made was to one of my best friends, who is also a personal trainer. I asked him for advice on changing my eating habits and beginning a work out plan. He emailed me a meal and an exercise plan, and after I gasped and balked over it (I thought is was so hard), I decided to give it a try. It isn't easy, but I am trying (thought I'd slip that in, just in case he's reading this). There is usually a personal trainer in just about every city. But you probably know at least one person who you can classify as a "fitness nut," so pick his/her brain for ways to shape up. There are also a slew of books and videos for purchase. These may be a great source of inspiration if you decide to create your own workout plan and meal plan.
The next task was to find a counselor. I decided it was time to sweep the cobwebs out of my heart and soul and to smooth the rough places made hard by time and old hurts that never mended. I found a Christian counseling organization that was great. I was even more blessed when I found out that my insurance would pay for most of it, all I would have to pay is my co-pay (Thank You Jesus!). I usually had "homework" each week, which was to be completed by my next session. Counseling no longer carries the stigma that it used to carry. It is a perfectly legitimate and, sometimes, even necessary way to completely heal yourself. For me, I felt like I was able to open up because I wasn't talking to a close friend or family member. My counselor had no pre-conceived notions about who I was or how I should behave. There are numerous sources for good, credible counselors, including churches, mental health organizations and universities. Some of these (especially churches) even offer counseling free of charge.
I didn't think the next task would be as easy. I decided to hire a life or success coach. As with my counselor, I felt that there needed to be an instant connection. After all, this person would help me accomplish my innermost dreams and goals. I started searching around on the Internet, but no one seemed to pique my interest. The moderator of my online bookclub sent an email about a new author. I decided to check out her website. At that moment, a "God thing" happened. The last thing to load on her page was a link to her business, Creative Coaching Plans. At that point, I lost all interest in her book (no offense Sophfronia!). I clicked on the link. As I searched her sight, I instantly felt a connection. So I decided to sign up for a free session. One week later, we had our first conversation. That was the beginning of a wonderful relationship?thanks Coach Soph!!!
As a result of both coaching and counseling, I have much more energy and focus. I am accomplishing goals, one step at a time. I have seen as much growth over the last 30 days as I have seen in the last 2 years. But yet, there was a certain void that couldn't be filled with accomplishing goals or getting in touch with my feelings. It was something only restoring my close relationship with Jesus could fill. So I contacted an acquaintance of mine who agreed to meet and pray with me. We had an awesome time together. She asked questions, listened to my answers, talked to me, counseled me and challenged me. Now the puzzle was complete?I felt complete.
The best part of this was that I now felt closer to my friends and family than I had in years. I was able to open up to them because I no longer feared closeness with them. For a long time I had a trust issue in my relationship with women (for a lot of women, that's no news flash). But as a result of my newly established support system, we have reached a new plateau in our relationships. They are an integral part of my new support system. I no longer feel that I have to hide my insecurities, flaws and mistakes because my friends "have my back" and will only want what's best for me. This has given me a freedom in my friendships that I never felt. My circle of close friends has always been small, but now we're closer than ever.
Support is defined as "to carry the weight of", "to prevent from falling, sinking, etc.", "to be actively in favor of" or "to assist or strengthen morally". These are the kinds of characteristics that you should desire of those you consider part of your support system. Surround yourself with people that will speak positively into your life. But take note, positive doesn't always mean telling you what you want to hear. Sometimes it means telling you what you need to hear. I have 2 people in my life like that (I used to think that was 2 too many). But I have come to learn that their challenges have caused me to grow and mature.
Are ready to leave your "island" and begin to surround yourself with a support system that will not only help you through the rough times, but also rejoice with you during the great times. Here are 5 steps to create a Godly support system.
1. Pray for guidance and discernment. Ask God to lead you in how to and who to establish as your support system. As him to help discern who should be apart of that system. Susan L. Taylor says, "Everyone is not healthy enough to have a front row seat in your life." Find people that exhibit growth, wisdom, compassion and integrity. They do not have to be perfect, but should always strive for excellence.
2. Determine what type of people you need as your support system. This is a very individual and personal decision. You should determine some of the goals you would want to accomplish and what person(s) will help you best achieve them. If you are trying to lose weight, a personal trainer might be a part of your support system. If you are trying to grow in your relationship with God, enlist your pastor, minister or another "spiritually mature" person. If you are trying to advance or change careers, network until you find someone who is currently in a similar position to the one you desire, then begin working on establishing a mentoring relationship with them. Your support system may consist of one person or a handful; just choose what is best for you.
3. Search for and secure the desired person(s) as your support system. Most of your support system may be right around you?friends, family, co-workers, bosses, etc. Observe people for a while before you approach them about becoming a part of your support system. Once you decide whom you would like to ask for help/support, be honest and forthright with them about what you hope to gain from the interaction. This is especially important with people you do not have a close, personal relationship with. Listen to your intuition and allow God to guide you to the right people. Do not force it?it should feel natural.
4. Be honest. Not only with others, but also with yourself. You won't gain all of the life-long benefits if you are telling people what you think they want to hear or trying to always present yourself in the best possible light. This is especially true if you decide on some form of counseling or coaching. Hopefully, part of your rationale for starting a support system is to change some behaviors that you have engaged in during the past; and the best way to do this is acknowledge where you've messed up and gain some insight & suggestions on how to replace destructive behavior with constructive behavior.
5. Commit to this support system for 3 months. At first, 3 months may seem like a long time, but time will fly. I can't believe that I've been with my coach for a month! Three months will give you time to change and establish behavior (which usually takes 3-4 weeks), evaluate your progress, and make any adjustments as necessary.
No matter what you are desiring to accomplish, establishing your own Godly support system will give you the skills, desire and motivation to live the God-filled life (which leads to a personally fulfilled life) that He wants for you.
Adeea Rogers is the chair of the Young Adult Ministy at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, NC. She has over 5 years of experience in event planning and personal assistance. Her desire is for everyone to live enlightened, empowered and encouraging lives by realizing their potential, overcoming obstacles and challenges and maximizing their potential.
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